Print Story This is when I'm supposed to say
By technician (Fri Sep 18, 2009 at 06:48:42 PM EST) (all tags)
don't do it! But I remember what it was like, and so I didn't.

My nephew emails me. My nephew my minds eye I still see him at 5 years old, blonde skinny kid who was so loving and so completely whip-smart and, well, I love that kid. Left him 13 years ago in northern California, and since then we've kept in touch regularly, weekly at times. Now he's 18, out of highschool with an actual diploma and all, and he sends me this email that basically says, there's this girl.

She lives in Seattle. They've met in person twice, once just recently she stayed in town for a week. He's in Love. That 18 year old love, all hormones and heart, a full-bodied emotional kick in the ass love.

He wants to move to Seattle and get a small place and eventually live with her. To do that, he says he will get a job and work until he has enough money to move. He does not currently have a job. He wants to move up there, get enrolled in a cooking program somewhere, and work while learning to be a cook / chef / restaurant worker.

He says, you've moved across the country. Any advice? Also, don't tell my folks, he says.  I'll tell them when the time is right. But yeah, any advice?

About moving? Not much. Some. So I replied:

Right then.

You should know in advance that plans rarely work. Plans aren't check lists, they are loose frameworks for what's going to go wrong.

California has a 12 percent unemployment rate. Highest it's been in 70 years. Bad time to be a skilled worker, and a really bad time to be an unskilled worker, especially a young unskilled worker.  So keep your options open.

I moved from New Mexico to California with $800 to my name, and only did it because I had a place to land. It is exceedingly difficult to go somewhere that has no safety net for you. The move to Massachusetts was predicated on 1) my wife finding a place for us in advance (a zero-bedroom basement apartment....our kitchen and bedroom were the same thing) and 2) us having enough cash for four months of rent and expenses (food + whatever utilities).  To do this, I worked for a solid year in Las Cruces at a job that paid pretty well for the time...I think I was making like $8.25 an hour...and living as cheaply as possible.  My "entertainment" (coffe and smokes) cash came from saving change and/or playing guitar at coffee shops.  A solid year, and when it came time to go? My car broke. Took the kindness of a lot of people to get us on the road. One month after our wedding, we took off with a little over $2k in our pockets. I was able to get a decent job fairly quickly, but this was the mid 90s, so tech jobs == easy to find and quick cash.

First thing, then, is that you need an actual monetary goal, and you need as many avenues to employment as you can get.  You should also check out the squatters / collective scene up there, it can be pretty decent.  Get connected with a co-op, you can get cheap good produce that way.  Hit up and check out rents, jobs, nearby towns, and the like.  Initially you'll want to move into a room, which is cheaper and involves living with people who can maybe help hook you up to the local job and collective / co-op scene, depending. Avoid fuckups and psychos.  Check through and check out the discussions there to avoid scams.

You may find yourself in physical danger. I was once mugged walking from Tech Pizza to my apartment, literally four blocks from our place in Worcester.  They took my pizza and the only cash I had on me, and a zippo. Be prepared for that sort of shit and worse.  Do what you can to run like hell from anything that could injure you. A baton and a knife will help, though, and you won't have to kill anyone.  I'll send you both.

For work, take whatever you can get and keep looking all the time for better. Don't turn anything down. Part time, full time, do what you can.

Medical, you'll hopefully be able to get something from a national health plan. It won't be free the way their making it look, but we'll wait and see.  We'll help with that, so don't sweat it...if nothing else we'll get you on independent insurance.

The biggest thing is, you HAVE to have reserves. HAVE to. Not, it would be nice to have 3 months of food and rent.  You require at least that to start, and at any given moment you should be able to recover from a lost job or a month long injury. No shit, you need to be able to bail yourself out.  Now, when it comes down to it you know you can rely on your family to help out, but that always carries a price tag, one that twenty years from now you'll realize. So do what you can without having to rely on anyone. That means  you'll be living below your means, which also means you'll be barely living an American
lifestyle. Don't try. Your lifestyle is going to have to become southeast Asian or Mexican: use everything, waste nothing, work your ass off, and become vegetarian.  That last part isn't required, but it is way cheaper to live that way and you'll be healthier.  Red beans and brown rice are your friend.

You have good instincts, and you were raised well, so you won't do anything stupid like get involved in anything too shady. If you do and shit goes all pear shaped, send up a flare and you'll have a one way ticket waiting for you at the airport, plus a guest if needed.  No shit, you aren't going to run off the horizon and die, but you will be on your own. I can provide a parachute but not a hammock, get me?

Think about that. Think about every thing in your day that requires someone other than you. Now, sort out how you'll handle it all. Write  hat down next to your budget.

So far as the girl goes, best of luck. This period in your life is the very, very best time to be in love. You are soaked in a chemical structure intended to maintain the species, and you're powerless to it...that's the joy of being young, and the pain. Holy hell, if I could do it again I wouldn't. Your experiences now will shape everything about you for the rest of your life. So treat them with respect, these experiences. Treat them with honor. Don't fuck around too much with them.

The whole of the world, out there, waiting. Fucking hell. What a lovely, lovely thing. Just prepare for it, understand what you are preparing for, and do not be at all badly affected or afraid of the crazy shit that will happen along the way.

And always, always, always have my cell number and my phone number handy. Do not lose these numbers, ever.

Right then.  You will have specific questions and possible holes in your map. Feel free to hit me with all of it.  I'll do what I can.


So there's that. Maybe this is why I'm not a parent: I'm encouraging the kid to do something pretty rash.

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This is when I'm supposed to say | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
That's fine to me by georgeha (4.00 / 3) #1 Fri Sep 18, 2009 at 07:58:04 PM EST
he's 18, mostly an adult, and you're telling him that life an an unskilled 18 year old isn't going to be very easy, without being over the top.

I was trying by technician (2.00 / 0) #2 Fri Sep 18, 2009 at 08:04:05 PM EST
for non-exaggerated hints. I didn't want him to be unprepared, but I didn't want him to discount my advice.

[ Parent ]
looks like good advice to me by 256 (4.00 / 4) #3 Fri Sep 18, 2009 at 09:04:40 PM EST
life is about making bad decisions, but making them with heart and a backup plan.
I don't think anyone's ever really died from smoking. --ni
I had an uncle like you once. by clock (4.00 / 3) #4 Fri Sep 18, 2009 at 09:35:36 PM EST
he's a lucky kid and you, my friend, are a good man.

I wouldn't do it again, but there's something to be envied in starting that journey.

I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

you won't have to kill anyone by wiredog (4.00 / 4) #5 Fri Sep 18, 2009 at 09:41:59 PM EST
If he's carrying a knife for protection he damned well be prepared (and able) to use it. Otherwise he's going to get badly hurt. Here in DC we had a guy (Johns Hopkins student) heard someone sneaking around his backyard, went out there with a katana, and had to use it. Result: One dead burglar.
3 months of food and rent. ... you should be able to recover from a lost job

Your lifestyle is going to have to become southeast Asian or Mexican: use everything, waste nothing, work your ass off, and become vegetarian. That last part isn't required, but it is way cheaper to live that way and you'll be healthier. Red beans and brown rice are your friend.

I'm 44 and follow that advice. Which is good as I seem to have a knack for getting hired by companies that are about to lose their contracts and leave me hanging.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

It's a good email. by ni (4.00 / 4) #6 Fri Sep 18, 2009 at 10:41:52 PM EST
Really. Nearly the best he could ask for. Few wouldn't benefit from such advice.

But was the "=" really necessary? Is it too late to call in some favors at his ISP and get that reduced to a single ""? Maybe some black ops scheme? It's your dignity at stake, after all.

"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM

FACT: scoop eats '='s. /nt by ni (4.00 / 1) #7 Fri Sep 18, 2009 at 10:42:29 PM EST

"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM
[ Parent ]
agree with everyone else by R343L (4.00 / 3) #8 Fri Sep 18, 2009 at 11:01:39 PM EST
Damn fine advice. I mean, if he has any balls at all, he's going to do it. He might as well get told how to do it in a recoverable way.

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot
That's one lucky fucking kid by BadDoggie (4.00 / 4) #9 Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 08:12:28 AM EST
to have an uncle that caring who knows how to give excellent advice. The grammar Nazi in me wants to fix your typos but I'm not going to.


OMG WE'RE FUCKED! -- duxup ?

Love me, love my typos. by technician (2.00 / 0) #10 Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 08:16:12 PM EST

[ Parent ]
I have a locally chef-schooled chef friend here. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 2) #11 Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 11:48:02 AM EST
We are available for consultation.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Excellent. by technician (2.00 / 0) #12 Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 11:52:20 AM EST
I guess the biggest ting is, is school the way to go (and if so, which one?) or should he get to work, then get to school?

[ Parent ]
Depends on the cooking he wants to do by BadDoggie (4.00 / 1) #13 Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 06:43:41 PM EST
If he's looking to work on a line at some starred place, yes, school first. Otherwise he can learn as he goes. I strongly suggest he read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, available in fine bookstores, libraries and as a text file in certain intarwebs locations.


OMG WE'RE FUCKED! -- duxup ?

[ Parent ]
I sent him a copy of that book, by technician (2.00 / 0) #14 Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 07:28:59 PM EST
and it remains high on my list of books that i re-read when I need to be entertained.

[ Parent ]
This is when I'm supposed to say | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback